Similar to the pitching staff, we’ve long known the identity of the bench to start the season, save for a tepid battle for the final spot. Matt Treanor will be the backup catcher, Adam Kennedy will see time at three of the four infield positions, Tony Gwynn is your main backup outfielder, and Jerry Hairston will play all over. That last spot is probably going to go to Jerry Sands, but there’s some possibility that he’ll start the year in the minors with Justin Sellers, Josh Fields, or someone else sneaking in the door. (It won’t, we can all agree, be a 13th pitcher.)
We haven’t exactly been thrilled with that prospect so far, because despite Gwynn’s excellent glove and Hairston’s positional flexibility, it’s a bench that offers little in the way of offensive punch – especially if Sands doesn’t make the club. Remember how the game always seemed to find Dioner Navarro in the bottom of the 9th last year? If you thought that was fun, just wait until we’re watching Treanor & Kennedy meekly ending games in big spots.
Lackluster though that may seem, it’s how the roster has been set up, so we haven’t really spent a whole lot of time discussing it, other than whether Sands would really hold on to that final spot. Steve Dilbeck writes today that Sands hasn’t been impressive so far, and while it’s early, it’s true. But whether or not Sands should make the team or not isn’t the most immediate issue; it’s the apparent lack of depth the Dodgers are facing at shortstop.
You see, Hairston made two errors playing shortstop today, as the Dodgers fell to Colorado 6-2. Now, I hardly need to remind you of the usual caveats about how one game – or even one week – in spring training usually doesn’t mean that much, and that’s still true. But with Juan Uribe expected to play third base exclusively, that leaves only Hairston, a soon-to-be 36-year-old who played in exactly one game at shortstop last year, for depth. While Dee Gordon (who made an error of his own today) is expected to play every day, questions about his durability remain, so it’s pretty easy to make the case that Sellers should make the club and Sands should head to ABQ, especially with the possibility that Scott Van Slyke & Alex Castellanos could be shifting around down there, as Christopher Jackson writes today.
Maybe it really is that simple, to keep Sellers & let Sands mash for a while in Triple-A. It probably will be. But that doesn’t mean it should be, because that would create something of a ripple effect. If you keep Sellers, he immediately becomes your top backup at shortstop and a more than capable defender behind Mark Ellis at second. Hairston becomes your primary backup at third base behind Uribe, where he played nearly everyday for Milwaukee last year, is a third option at second base, and can help Gwynn spot for Juan Rivera and Andre Ethier in the corners.
Considering that Rivera can shift to first on the few days that James Loney will get off, your defensive flexibility is pretty much spoken for, and the last spot should really be about offense. Maybe that’s Sands. Maybe that’s Fields, who has been impressive early in camp, and at least has a history of crushing Triple-A pitching aside from the 23 homers he put up for the White Sox in 2007. But really, it makes me wonder yet again, what exactly is Adam Kennedy‘s role here? It’s not for his bat, as I detailed in this ridiculous timeline that I’m all too eager to break out yet again:
Feb. 5, 2010: Coming off a decent 2009 with Oakland, signs a $1.25m guaranteed contract for 2010 with Washington.
2010: Hits just .249/.327/.327 for Washington, one of the worst years of his career.
Nov. 3, 2010: Nationals decline Kennedy’s $2m 2011 option.
Jan 27, 2011: Arrested in Newport Beach for suspicion of DUI.
2011: Hits .234/.277/.355 for Seattle, a wOBA 25 points lower than his underwhelming 2010.
Nov. 30, 2011: After not being able to find a guaranteed contract in 2011 and having a horrible season… receives a guaranteed deal from the Dodgers.
It’s not for his glove, because as outlined in the scenario above, second and third base would be more than covered without him. I imagine the argument would be “because he’s lefty”, but who cares what side a guy swings from when he can’t hit at all? I’d much rather take my chances with Fields (or Sands, or Trent Oeltjen, or whomever) along with Sellers while simultaneously improving the defensive depth and offensive potential. Now I know that Kennedy has a guaranteed contract, so this scenario is never going to happen. Still, what’s more important – the $850k already wasted on him, or building the best bench you can?
Ownership update, from Mike Ozanian of Forbes: Alan Casden is out, and Magic Johnson’s group has the current high bid at $1.6b. While that’s the highest bid thus far, it’s not that simple for two reasons. First, Steven Cohen’s bid, while only $1.4b, apparently has the highest percentage of straight cash involved, and the bidders have until Friday to rework their bids and submit final numbers. Expect the numbers to increase; sadly, all of the bids include provisions to lease the parking lots from Frank McCourt.
By the way: I’m not at all convinced this is going to go as smoothly as we hope. From Bill Shaikin’s piece on Casden:
McCourt has told people familiar with the sale process that he might introduce new bidders in the coming week. MLB has completed an expedited investigation of the current bidders and would probably ask the mediator to reject any new bidders at this late date, the people said.
McCourt has the ability to appeal any perceived wrongdoing on MLB’s part to a court-appointed mediator. Since when he has passed up the opportunity to litigate?
Update: Per Shaikin, MLB has also cut the Gold/Disney group and the Barrack/Hindery group. That makes your final four bidders Magic/Kasten, Cohen, Kroenke… and the Heisley/Ressler group, which I suppose we’re going to have to start paying more attention to.
Big week for Dodger literature, it seems. A few days ago we learned about a new Dodger coffee table book, “Dodgers: From Coast to Coast”, and now Paul Haddad is publishing “A Fan’s History of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Glory Years (1977-1981)”. The book contains transcripts of classic calls from Vin Scully, Jerry Doggett, and Ross Porter – sounds like it’s worth checking out.